Wednesday 29th January 2020


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Fast Diets

Various fad, fast diets have been proposed and followed by many during the years, almost invariably without leading to too much success. Here are some of them.

The Cabbage Soup Diet, as the name might give a hint, prescribes an unlimited quantity of soup made with cabbage, tomatoes, green beans, celery, carrots and green peppers. Other than that, dieters are allowed to have only fruit one day, vegetables another day and meat another, ending with a day of fresh vegetables and plain brown rice. The claim was that following this diet you could lose up to 17 pounds (8 and a half kilos) in one week. The cabbage soup diet attracted its fair share of celebrities, among whom Jack Nicklaus, British novelist Jilly Cooper and UK politician Chris Patten. The expert opinion on it was that most of the weight lost is water, not fat, and you regain back weight when you return to eating solids. Flatulence and nausea are among the diet's reported side effects. Medical authorities warned that long-term adherence to this diet could damage your health.

The Combination Diet says that to lose weight you should combine some food groups and avoid putting protein and starch at the same time in your digestive system. Followers included British actor Sir John Mills and Koo Stark.

The New Beverly Hills Diet claims that carbohydrates and protein must not be eaten together due to the body's inability to digest them both, so the food finishes up stored as fat. Nutrition experts say that this diet is based on a scientifically wrong theory of the digestive mechanism.

The Hay Diet is another combination diet, claiming that carbs cannot be digested in acid conditions and therefore should not be consumed with protein. Mixing alkaline and acid is not allowed to dieters, so they should never eat fruit near a main meal. The scientific consensus on this one is that it lacks scientific basis, because mixing foods and nutrients is in reality a good practice, essential for a healthy metabolism: for example, vitamin C helps the absorption of iron.

The Grapefruit Diet, started in the 1930s and still around, is based on the concept of the thermic effect of food: a number of calories are burnt just to digest and absorb each food, and some foods have a higher thermic effect than others, leaving you with proportionally less calories after absorption. This diet exploits the idea that grapefruit and celery are "negative calorie foods", i.e. they use more calories in the digestive process than was originally contained in them. In addition, the grapefruit diet is based on the theory that grapefruit has a sort of "magical" fat-burning enzyme that causes weight loss. The diet has a few variants, but it usually consists in drinking grapefruit juice or eating half a grapefruit at each meal while at the same time reducing calories to very low levels, even under 800 daily calories. The idea that some foods can burn more calories than they contain has no scientific support, as well as that of a fat-burning ingredient in grapefruit. The weight lost from the grapefruit diet is mainly from water, not fat, and is regained when you go off the diet. Furthermore, the forms of this diet going under 1200 daily calories, lacking nutrients, vitamins and minerals are considered by health experts potentially dangerous.

The Blood Type Diet claims that the kind of food you should eat depends on your blood group. As an example, blood-type-A people had farmers as ancestors and therefore should not eat dairy products and meat. The theory behind the diet has no scientific foundation.

The System S Diet is great for people who love sweets and don't worry too much about either losing weight or losing their teeth (sorry, it's a joke). It alleges that when you eat more carbs you have a more constant blood sugar level, which is the key to weight loss, so it favours consumption of carbohydrates and sugars, but only as part of a calorie-controlled diet.

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Losing Weight Tips

The number of obese and overweight people has risen so dramatically in recent years, particularly but not only in Western countries, that liposuction has overtaken breast augmentation as the world's most popular plastic surgery procedure.

That we are fatter now than in previous times is shown, besides statistics, by little anecdotal information (facts) like the need for New York's Yankee Stadium, built in the 1920s, to remove 9,000 seats and increase seat sizes from 15 to 19 inches.

Most medical authorities and nutrition bodies recommend that you lose weight at a rate of no more than between 1 and 2 pounds (0.5-1kg) per week.

The real questions to ask yourself are: a) what kind of weight is lost (fat tissue, muscle tissue, water or stored carbohydrate) and b) is this weight loss permanent?

If you can exercise then you should. There are two methods to produce a calorie deficit: eating less calories, and burning more calories. The latter is a better method, and it has many fewer disadvantages and side effects. Unless you have some medical condition that prevents it, there are really very few contraindications to moderate, at-your-pace exercise. At the same time, however, you need to eat less: all the medical evidence shows that you can't lose weight only by exercise because you'll eat more in order to compensate for the extra activity, and it does not take much overeating to do that.

When two diets provide the same number of calories but are different in their nutrient compositions, e.g. low fat, low carb, or high protein, and, given the same level of activity in the dieters, one diet results in more weight loss than the other, the diet producing the greater weight loss is said to provide a metabolic advantage.

A theory says that the body maintains its weight at a set point, i.e. it has a tendency to hover at the same weight, and it does so by using hormones to trigger the feelings of hunger or its opposite, satiety.

A theory which is popular but still lacking scientific foundation is that of sugar addiction. Explained in evolutionary terms, whenever our ancestor the early man did something that was useful for survival, like reproducing or eating, he was rewarded with opiates released by the brain, that produced feelings of pleasure. We are the same as early man, so eating sugar still creates intense reward signals by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which reinforce the action. The higher the level of dopamine, the bigger the sensation of pleasure, and the more likely the behaviour will be repeated in the future. In short: the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you want. This may override mechanisms of self-control and may cause addiction.


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